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Prioritizing work / life balance, learning and development, and sustained workplace changes will be critical for employers looking to attract and retain employees from Generation Z and the millennial generation, according to a new survey.

According to Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, those generations are worried about the cost of living, climate change, wealth inequality, geopolitical conflicts and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And although they are determined to drive change, they also struggle with financial anxiety, lack of work / life balance and consistently high stress levels.

“This has led to a workplace reckoning, which has empowered many to demand sustained changes, including higher compensation, more meaningful and flexible work, more action to address climate change, and an increased focus on well-being,” Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer Michele Parmelee said in a news release. “There is an urgent need, and an opportunity, for business leaders to redefine the talent experience to better meet people’s needs.”

Money talks

In this year’s survey, 29% of Gen Z respondents and 36% of millennials cited the cost of living as a top personal concern, ranking it just above climate change. Only 25% of Gen Zs and 21% of millennials said they can comfortably pay their monthly living expenses, and almost half said they live paycheck to paycheck. More than a fourth of Gen Zs (26%) and millennials (31%) said they are not confident that they will be able to retire comfortably. 

Some poll participants said they are taking on second jobs and redefining their working patterns to alleviate their financial concerns; 43% of Gen Zs and 33% of millennials took part-time or full-time jobs in addition to their primary jobs. They also are capitalizing on the financial benefits of remote work, with a small but growing percentage — 15% of Gen Zs and 13% of millennials — reportedly moving to less expensive cities, according to the survey.

The “great resignation” may continue for some time, Deloitte said. Employee loyalty is up from last year’s survey, but 40% of Gen Zs and 24% of millennials said they plan to leave their jobs within the next two years — and approximately one-third said they would do so without another job lined up. In the healthcare / life sciences field, 41% of Gen Zs and 29% of millennials said they plan to leave their jobs within two years.

This result signals significant dissatisfaction levels, Deloitte said, adding that businesses can learn from the findings and implement workplace changes to attract and retain workers.

Senior living perspective 

Lynne Katzmann, CEO of Bloomfield, NJ-based Juniper Communities, said she sees Gen Zs and millennials from two perspectives — as a vested mother of a younger-generation worker in the industry and as an employer. With a mission of “doing well by doing good,” Juniper has built purpose into its culture from day one, she said.

“We are trying hard to recruit and attract younger people who will become the next generation of leaders at Juniper,” Katzmann told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Our responsibility as companies and as players within a community to do more has been a basic part of our culture for 35 years.”

Watermark Retirement Communities National Director of Recruitment Debbie Penn told McKnight’s Senior Living that these two generations prioritize growth opportunities and the feeling that their job has purpose.

“What we are seeing with these two particular generations in their work with us at Watermark is that they have a very strong focus on work-life balance,” Penn said. “Salary is important, but an uplifting culture and positive environment will tend to determine how long someone from this group will stay.

“They appreciate feedback and positive affirmations more than just the typical annual review.”

Seeking balance, sustained change

Pay, workplace mental health concerns and burnout were the top reasons cited by respondents who left their jobs over the past two years. When choosing a new job, work / life balance, learning and development were top priorities, they said.

Flexibility also is important to work / life balance, the survey found; 49% of Gen Zs and 45% of millennials work remotely at least some of the time, whereas 75% said they would prefer remote work. 

Purpose continues to be pivotal for recruitment and retention, according to the survey results. Almost two in five respondents said they turned down a job because it did not align with their values. Workers satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact, along with company efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive culture, said they were more likely to stay with their employer long term.

Juniper adopted a double bottom line business model — which includes fiscal performance as well as positive social impact — from the beginning, Katzmann said. The company built one of the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) prototype buildings in the 1990s, adopted the small house model to change the way people with memory challenges lived, fostered a living wage in 2016, and has maintained a gender-balanced board of directors throughout its history. 

Katzmann said that Juniper now is looking to take it to the next level with a cross-discipline diversity, equity and inclusion work group and a career pathways program that includes internships and “stretch” assignments, which stretch an employee’s skills or tasks beyond the typical job level. The goal, she said, is to help employees fulfill their need to help make the world a better place.

“Young people want to make a difference, they want to contribute in a meaningful way. They want to grow, and they want to be recognized for the effort,” she said. 

The burn is real

Although employers have increased their focus on mental health, the survey indicated that stress and burnout levels remain high. 

Almost half (46%) of Gen Zs and 38% of millennials said they are stressed all or most of the time. And almost half of respondents said they have burnout from workload pressures — about the same percentage of respondents said many of their colleagues recently left their organizations due to burnout.

“This signals a retention issue for employers, but about one in five Gen Zs and millennials don’t think their employers are taking it seriously or taking steps to prevent it,” the report reads.

Respondents said that employers have been placing more focus on well-being and mental health since the start of the pandemic, but less than half said this effort had any meaningful effect on employees.

“Stress and anxiety levels are unlikely to ease as global threats and ongoing disruption from the pandemic continue to affect Gen Zs’ and millennials’ daily lives and their long-term view of the world,” Parmelee said. “Better mental health resources, setting boundaries to protect work / life balance, creating stigma-free environments, and empowering their people to drive change are just a few of the ways leaders can support better workplace mental health.”

The 11th annual survey was conducted November through January with 14,808 Gen Zs and 8,412 millennials across 46 countries.